Four Tips for Giving Professional and Effective Presentations

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Kelly O'Brien, Director of the NPDC
Your IQ may help you land a job, but your networking and professional skills will help you advance in your chosen career field. Even experienced professionals, like the MBA students at TCU, benefit from strengthening their soft skills. Part of the TCU advantage is the Neeley Professional Development Center, full of dedicated resources and staffed with full-time expert coaches.

The Neeley Professional Development Center provides students with relevant communication tools, plus professional training to ready them to interact with the executive ranks. Neeley students are prepared to ask questions, offer opinions, recommend changes and make presentations with confidence. After all, what good is a brilliant business strategy if you can't effectively communicate that plan to your company's execs, clients or other stakeholders?

The services students receive at the Neeley Professional Development Center are unique to TCU. “We help students focus on skill sets that are valuable in the workplace—soft skills to combine with their technical savvy—and provide students with coaching on those skills in a relevant way,” says Kelly O’Brien, Director of the Neeley Professional Development Center. “Our goal is to help students beyond the classroom, allow them to take what they learn here to client presentations and into the workplace.”

While helping students improve their teamwork skills and group communication is one focus of the Neeley Professional Development Center, teaching them how to give effective and professional presentations is another core objective.

As early as their summer orientation, TCU MBA students are presenting in front of prospective employers and continue to do so throughout their MBA experience. Whether pitching to corporate clients in the Neeley & Associates consulting program or making recommendations for the Integrative Project in front of a room of corporate recruiters, Neeley students are constantly challenged to think on their feet.

“Most MBA students are confident, but anyone who is put in front of a room is going to be uncomfortable,” says O’Brien. “We work with students to identify growth opportunities so they can avoid common mistakes and perform better overall.”

When it comes to giving a presentation, O’Brien offers these seemingly simple but often overlooked tips:

1. Make eye contact. Too many people talk to the screen, which only alienates their audience. Eye contact is critical for connecting with the rest of the people in the room.

2. Don’t be too stiff. Using gestures as you speak is natural human behavior and is acceptable during presentations. Just don’t overdo it.

3. Keep it conversational. Have a conversation with the audience about your ideas. If it helps, pretend like you're talking to your friends, but in a professional manner.

4. Use visual aids. Keep your audience engaged by using visual aids that align with your topic of discussion.

Neeley student Jami Harmon took these tips to heart with overwhelmingly favorable results:

“I had the biggest presentation of my life, announcing a new brand launch to 200-plus people in my company. I was so nervous, but it went really well and I can't begin to tell you how many people who have come up to me to ask where I learned to speak so well, how I could have so much presentation experience and look as young as I do, etc.,” Harmon says. “I told everyone it was all thanks to the TCU MBA program. My boss was already a fan of the school but now he's even more of a champion for our students, and other executive management is jumping on board as well.”

Students in TCU’s Neeley School of Business have numerous resources at their disposal, but the Neeley Professional Development Center is proof of the effectiveness of these student amenities and the positive impact they can have for the future.
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